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The History Project

The History Project graduated from Cambridge Social Ventures in January 2017.

In an age of demagogues and dangerous noise, it is vital to teach future generations to question and form their own opinions and to understand that there is always another side to every story. The History Project aims to teach students to understand multiple narratives of history and the historical context of their identity.

Central to The History Project's ethos is a deep belief that it is wrong to teach people to hate. Cambridge Social Ventures believes that The History Project's evolving model has the potential to empower teachers in areas of conflict around the world to encourage a culture of understanding, increasing the potential for peace.

Idea

Ayyaz Ahmad and Qasim Aslam, co-founders of The History Project, were both active members of the not for profit organisation Seeds of Peace. Seeds of Peace focuses on training new generations of leaders to build lasting peace. Indeed, since 1993 it's been setting the standard in international peace-building by providing exceptional young people and educators from regions of conflict with an otherwise impossible opportunity to meet their historic enemies face-to-face at its International Camp.

"Feruzan Mehta, the director of Seeds of Peace India first introduced the idea of comparable timelines of India and Pakistan back in 2005. We built upon that and thought of an illustrated book that, for the first time, presented side by side historical accounts from high school textbooks taught in conflict regions, specifically Pakistan and India. The point was to highlight the biases in each narrative. The idea behind the project was that there's always another side to a story. History is a play between multiple things happening simultaneously, and the narrative becomes much more comprehensive and dynamic when it is viewed from multiple perspectives," explains Ayyaz.

By placing textbook narratives from India side-by-side with those from Pakistan, The History Project showcases the contrast between the two nations' telling of their pasts. Designed in collaboration with university professors, curriculum directors, teachers, trainers, and most importantly, students, The History Project curates a fun-laden and activity-based learning journey.

As well as providing self-published learning resources, The History Project currently runs teacher training and student workshops in schools and universities in India and Pakistan. It has also conducted introductory workshops in USA and Singapore, as well as interacting with South Asians abroad.

"Going forward we plan to focus on different regions, ultimately tailoring learning resources and courses for all of the regions in the world dealing with religious or cultural conflict. There are so many ways of teaching multiple perspectives, through schools and through political science, conflict studies, sociology, philosophy and international development courses, to name but a few, in universities globally," advises Ayyaz.

Entrepreneurs

Ayyaz Ahmad moved to Cambridge in 2014 to study for an MBA. Co-founding The History Project in 2011 was a natural extension of his interest and experiences in integrating design thinking, innovation and technology with business strategy, operations and marketing to build commercially viable and impactful solutions.

Past experience includes education, public policy, publishing and sustainability consulting for organisations including The World Bank and Google. In each sector, Ayyaz's primary motivation has been to look at challenging problems and build new solutions by combining his background in humanities and his interest in innovation.

Qasim Aslam is an Acumen fellow, Laureate Global fellow and a former TedX speaker with over a decade of experience launching social and commercial ventures. Before co-founding The History Project he was a partner at Arbisoft, Pakistan's third fastest growing tech company.

Impact

"The ultimate impact we are trying to create is a multitude of by-products from equipping future generations with critical thinking skills and the true understanding that comes from considering multiple perspectives. We think that it is wrong to teach people, especially children, to hate. That is the real issue that we are trying to address," explains Ayyaz.

"Whilst we have some ideas around surveying people that come on our courses, and monitoring their future progress (for example career choices and volunteering activities), we're still trying to understand how to measure the impact of teaching critical thinking skills to students and look forward to working with Cambridge Social Ventures to develop a framework," he concludes.

The History Project logo

Get in touch

The History Project is interested in connecting with impact investors, as well as universities and schools in the UK that are trying to deal with the idea of tolerance and understanding the other side. Ayyaz would also be interested in introductions to any ex pat communities and community hubs for South Asian parents who are interested in the concept, as well as people working on related education policy in UK educational establishments.

ayyaz.ahmad@cantab.net

thehistory-project.org